Different Retrospectives and pre-mortems

One of the most powerful components of agile approaches is the retrospective.  I often think that even if a team does not know what “agile” is, if that team pauses on a regular basis and reflects on how to get better at what they do, then they would invent most of the other agile practices for themselves.

But stopping on  a regular basis can get stale after a while, so I thought I would sharer some slightly different sets of questions that you can use to keep things fresh.

In this first example, get people to compare this release to the last one, or compare how testing is going now compared to a few weeks ago.  Then ask what is different (better or worse).  This should then allow you to ask them what they can do to improve from here.

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In the next version, I ask people to imagine they had just arrived and then asking what they would think of the team if they saw it with fresh eyes.

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The next retro is taken from an approach you can see in this youtube video:

Based on this video, the River of Life is an approach to reviewing your entire life and is used here to help children who grew up in a war zone to discuss the challenges of their lives and find a positive way to move forward. That might be a little intense compared to your retrospectives but the idea can translate.

Here is a picture of a similar approach used in a course I ran, to review the topics we covered the day before:

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Rather than just remembering one day though, you review a sprint or a release. Get people to review what happened from beginning to end and then talk about what worked well for them and when things were challenging.

You can also take notes each day or have people put up post-it notes during the sprint (and photos of the story wall). Then review the notes and photos during the retro rather than trying to remember the things that worked well.

None of these is better than a standard retrospective. They can be used to give people a fresh perspective.

Sometimes though, I like to look forward rather than backward.  Rather than asking what is working well at the moment, I like to ask how we think things will go in the future.

The most obvious way to do this is to pretend you are doing a retrospective 3 months in the future and ask what the team thinks they will be saying.  This might seem a bit silly but you might be surprised how many of the potential issues people will identify in advance.  You can do this at the beginning of a project or half way through.

I have heard this called a “pre-mortem” and I liked the term so I am reusing it here.

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If that is a bit odd then you can use more straight-forward questions.

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I hope you find these useful. Let me know if you do, or if you have some similar ideas to try.

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